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Episode 11 – Interview with Tim Adkins


[00:00:01] Adam: Hi I’m joined today by Tim Atkins Director of Marketing and Communications for Hands On Atlanta. Hey Tim.

[00:00:07] Tim: Hey what’s going on.

[00:00:08] Adam: Thanks for being here man.

[00:00:09] Tim: Yeah thanks for having me.

[00:00:10) Adam: So you just came onboard recently with Hands On Atlanta. Sounds like you’re doing some pretty amazing things, and one of the first things you did was to rebuild the website. So I want I want to focus on that just a little bit, have a little conversation around that and then ask you maybe some things you’re excited about at the end here. So related to the website let’s start with what’s the best thing you did when you decided to build the website?

[00:00:35] Tim: It’s a great question. So the best thing I did was probably just restart from scratch. I essentially just took the CMS that they were using before.

[00:00:48] Adam: Right.

[00:00:50] Tim: Was great for our volunteer portal, so what we do is we connect volunteers to nonprofits and schools in need. So there’s a lot of users in the backend.

[00:00:58] Adam: Right.

[00:00:59] Tim: You have the volunteers and then you also have the nonprofits.

[00:01:01] Adam: Right.

[00:01:01] Tim: That are posting their opportunities and things. So that portal works great for that specific task.

[00:01:08] Adam: Right. For what it does.

[00:01:10] Tim: Exactly.

[00:01:10] Adam: Yeah. Right.

[00:01:11] Tim: Then they were trying to build like a full functioning website on top of that platform, it just…

[00:01:16] Adam: Never works.

[00:01:16] Tim: Wasn’t working.

[00:01:17] Adam: Yeah.

[00:01:17] Tim: So really early on I recognized that and I just scrapped it and…

[00:01:22] Adam: Yeah.

[00:01:22] Time: I started from scratch and…

[00:01:23] Adam: That’s great.

[00:01:24] Tim: I have the portal still that lives on the portal software.

[00:01:29] Adam: As it should.

[00:01:30] Tim: It does what it does.

[00:01:31] Adam: As it should. Yeah.

[00:01:31] Tim: Then you have the front page of our…

[00:01:33] Adam: Yeah.

[00:01:34] Tim: Business of our website is hosted somewhere else.

[00:01:38] Adam: I’m glad you brought that up because I have this conversation often with people on my team, and they’ll say well why can’t we get one thing, one service that does everything? My response is always because that service will be equally terrible at everything.

[00:01:52] Tim: Right.

[00:01:52] Adam: Like when you try to have one thing that just does, it’s your CRM, it’s your CNS, and it’s your volunteer management. Like it can’t do all of them well, it can do one or two things well, but it never does all of them well. So my mind you want to go find what’s the best volunteer management and use that. What’s the best for each thing and use those things and really kind of silo your things to be very segmented. But make sure you’re using the best you can for each one of them.

[00:02:18] Tim: Yeah.

[00:02:19] Adam: So that’s really good.

[00:02:20] Tim: That’s right, and I mean otherwise you’ll have to have a dedicated person that just knows the tool.

[00:02:25] Adam: Right. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:02:25] Tim: That knows the huge platform.

[00:02:26] Adam: Yeah.

[00:02:27] Tim: You’re going to get anything done.

[00:02:28] Adam: Right.

[00:02:28] Tim: Especially in the nonprofit world.

[00:02:29] Adam: Right.

[00:02:30] Tim: Where everybody’s at capacity all the time.

[00:02:31] Adam: I don’t know what you mean.

[00:02:32] Tim: Yeah.

[00:02:33] Adam: That never happens.

[00:02:33] Tim: Yeah.

[00:02:34] Adam: Nonprofit people don’t work, other than…

[00:02:35] Tim: Great. Exactly.

[00:02:39] Adam: Right.

[00:02:40] Tim: It just so being able to free up some time and…

[00:02:41] Adam: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:02:41] Tim: Then obviously resources.

[00:02:44] Adam: That’s great.

[00:02:44] Tim: Yeah.

[00:02:44] Adam: So tell me, I think we talked about this before in some conversations, and you talked a little bit about research that you did before you rebuilt the website. Tell me a little bit about how you went about that to be sure that the website did what you needed, and serve the stakeholders well. While you also made some decisions that may not have been their first choice but were the right decisions anyway.

[00:03:12] Tim: Yes, so there was a couple of things going into the rebuild in terms of the platform that we use, so we were able to sign on Squarespace. That came primarily with my experience using Squarespace in the past, and then just the ease of use.

[00:03:26] Adam: Right.

[00:03:26] Tim: So it’s not going to give you the most fully dynamic, it doesn’t have the capabilities of like a WordPress where you can go and, at least for me as a non developer type.

[00:03:36] Adam: Right.

[00:03:36] Tim: To go in and customize every little detail that you want to do.

[00:03:39] Adam: Right.

[00:03:40] Tim: But it’s really user friendly, and for someone that if I wasn’t around and someone needed to pick up where I left off, it’s very translatable and you can watch a thirty second YouTube video on how to use Squarespace and you can figure it out.

[00:03:54] Adam: Gotcha. Yeah.

[00:03:55] Tim: So that was kind of the reasoning behind that. Like I just needed something that was going to be really easy, and then also replaceable for myself because I obviously want to grow a team, and push my responsibilities on to somebody else and…

[00:04:06] Adam: Right.

[00:04:07] Tim: Continue to figure out how we’re going to engage more volunteers in service.

[00:04:10] Adam: Right.

[00:04:10] Tim: So that was kind of like the primary thing was figuring out easy solution. Got it, and then what we did was identify three goals that we wanted the site to actually do.

[00:04:20] Adam: Okay.

[00:04:20] Tim: So that our old site wasn’t. So the first thing was we needed it to be easier for people just to sign up to volunteer in general. The last platform we were on it took a couple of clicks, it was a couple of steps to get there.

[00:04:35] Adam: Right.

[00:04:35] Tim: Which isn’t super user friendly. So we wanted to make that process a little more efficient. The next thing we wanted to do, is we wanted to make it easier for people to sign up for our newsletter.

[00:04:43] Adam: Right.

[00:04:44] Tim: So now when you come to our site there’s a pop up ‘hey join our newsletter’.

[00:04:48] Yeah. Seen that.

[00:04:49] Tim: Yeah.

[00:04:50] Adam: It’s great.

[00:04:50] Tim: It’s a good one. Then the last thing was just being able to make it easier for people to donate. So now we have a giant donate button on the header of every page on the site.

[00:04:58] Adam: Right.

[00:04:59] Tim: Whereas that exist before. All those things are super easy to implement using a service like Squarespace just because it’s drag and drop number one, but it’s just all features that get user experience for someone like myself, who doesn’t have any idea what’s going on half the time.

[00:05:19] Adam: Right. Right.

[00:05:20] Tim: Yeah so that’s kind of some of the decision making behind that.

[00:05:24] Adam: How did you go about doing research in terms of like understanding what the staff wanted from the website, and kind of understanding like how to position Hands On Atlanta in the marketplace?

[00:05:35] Tim: Yeah, so we actually were undergoing a rebrand as I was coming in.

[00:05:40] Adam: Okay.

[00:05:40] Tim: So the way in which we talk about volunteering and service, and the way in which we want to engage the Atlanta community we wanted to change that. I think the easiest way to do that was through our website and…

[00:05:55] Adam: Right.

[00:05:55] Tim: The way that the words that we use that just more pithy language, more human language, a lot shorter in the nonprofit world, everything is a two pager. So we wanted to make everything a little bit shorter, a little bit more digestible.

[00:06:08] Adam: Yeah.

[00:06:08] Tim: So what I did is I actually met with all of the department heads here, just to kind of talk about some pain points.

[00:06:16] Adam: Right.

[00:06:16] Tim: Things that I could do from the website standpoint to make it easier for them, and then also make it easier for whoever they were trying to help. So from our development team now I have custom forms for collecting payment so it’s not all one giant donation.

[00:06:32] Adam: Right.

[00:06:32] Tim: If we’re getting money from a corporate sponsor like that’s going to look and feel a little different than it does somebody making a donation. Sure and rightfully so. So identifying some stuff like that, working with our programs team just how are we telling the story about some of the youth literacy work that we’re doing. Those types of things that really, I think, helped translate into what you see on the site now. So you see like a lot of video.

[00:06:57] Adam: Right.

[00:06:57] Tim: You see some really good images of our volunteers at work actually in the community, we just didn’t have that before. So a lot of the research was internal.

[00:07:07] Adam: Right.

[00:07:07] Tim: Just talking to our team, and then also talking to our volunteer leaders, and board members, and people that are out in the community that are a little bit more hands on.

[00:07:16] Adam: Yeah.

[00:07:16] Tim: With actual work being done and saying ‘hey, we love this, we hate this.

Can we please change this?’ Not obviously doing everything that was asked but taking a consensus and then kind of putting a priority list together.

[00:07:30] Adam: I love that.

[00:07:31] Tim: Yeah.

[00:07:31] Adam: I feel like a lot of nonprofits when they get going on a website, make the mistake of just assuming they already know everything that they should know about what needs to be built, and they don’t talk to the individuals and specifically like I love that you talk to the volunteers, because I think a lot of times we don’t fully understand what the needs of the volunteers are until we have a conversation with them and we go ‘oh well, that’s a minor fix.

[00:07:53] Tim: Right.

[00:07:52] Adam: Like we can do that.

[00:07:54] Tim: Yeah, I think it was really great when I did talk to some of those folks, just like the registration process. I think it’s translatable for anybody because when you’re a part of the organization you’re so hands on.

[00:08:06] Adam: Right.

[00:08:07] Tim: I’m sorry about the pun there. You’re so involved like you know where everything is, you know what that green text over on the right side of the page means.

[00:08:16] Adam: Right.

[00:08:16] Tim: You know what all that stuff, and so for somebody who’s like brand new to the site and probably to your organization, it has to be so clear.

[00:08:24] Adam: Yeah.

[00:08:24] Tim: Overly communicated that if you want to donate ‘here’s where you donate’.

[00:08:29] Adam: right.

[00:08:29] Tim: Or if you want more information or contact us. You’ve got to remove yourself from the day to day understanding that you’ve been staring at this thing for six months.

[00:08:39] Adam: Right.

[00:08:39] Tim: Presented as you’ve never been here before.

[00:08:43] Adam: Yeah. It’s perfect.

[00:08:44] Tim: I think that’s helpful in deciphering some things.

[00:08:47] Adam: Those are the things that you did really well. Tell me something you would do differently if you were going to rebuild the website again.

[00:08:57] Tim: Yeah.

[00:08:57] Adam: Next month.

[00:08:58] Tim: I had a lot of input.

[00:09:03] Adam: So just brag on your research.

[00:09:05] Tim: Yeah. A lot of opinions on things that I didn’t think were necessarily important.

[00:09:13] Adam: Okay.

[00:09:14] Tim: So like what font are we going to use? Or what image specifically do we want for this portion of the site. I think I got bogged down a little bit with some of those decisions just based on there was twenty people trying to tell me different things. So that was a challenge, probably something I would do different is just the limit that. I definitely would ask for and make that effort to get some feedback.

[00:09:43] Adam: Right.

[00:09:43] Tim: But just do it, I think, on a more kind of smaller level.

[00:09:46] Right. Then don’t ask for details, don’t open yourself. If you open the door for detailed feedback like that it’s Pandora’s box.

[00:09:53] Tim: Correct.

[00:09:54] Adam: Then they’ll all want comic sans and then you just have to go claw your eyes out.

[00:09:57] Tim: Or up. Irises.

[00:09:58] Adam: Papyrus. Yeah. That’s the one, that’s the kicker right there.

[00:10:03] Tim: Yeah. So there was that and the other thing that I thought, it was actually kind of a funny story, I have this video, a header, on the home page. Right. When you go there I don’t know, it’s pretty great. It tells the story and it shows people volunteering.

[00:10:17] Adam: Right.

[00:10:17] Tim: Smiling and having a great time, and people were saying they couldn’t see it. I was just so confused ‘well something’s wrong with your browser obviously’ and it was a permission from YouTube that I had to make it public.

[00:10:28] Adam: Right.

[00:10:29] Tim: So I was like looking at this (inaudible 00:10:30).

[00:10:30] Adam: No one could see it because you’re logged in.

[00:10:32] Tim: Yeah. So for three weeks like everybody was looking at like ‘we love the static image that you have on the home page, it’s really cool’, because that’s what shows up on Google and…

[00:10:39] Adam: Right. Yeah.

[00:10:41] Tim: The video plays on (inaudible 00:10:41), I do really like that graphic, that picture. Cool. But what about the video? Yeah, nobody could see the video so that was…

[00:10:49] Adam: Video permissions.

[00:10:51] Tim: Yeah.

[00:10:51] Adam: Beware video admissions. That’s amazing. I love that. I love that. So you got the website built, you just finished a big push for Hands On Atlanta Day, which was a big success. Tell me what’s your next focus as it relates to digital marketing. What are you excited about?

[00:11:08] Tim: Yeah, so we did a lot of testing with the launch of Hands On Atlanta day.

[00:11:12] Adam: Right.

[00:11:13] Tim: So I just learned a lot about how our volunteers and folks just engage with our content, I’m excited about playing around with that. Obviously just doing more with like our blog and generating more content from, sorry air quote, thought leaders from across Atlanta. What’s going on in nonprofit space and…

[00:11:34] Adam: Right.

[00:11:34] Tim: Then also the corporate space and how we’re engaging those folks. So I’m really looking forward to to kind of diving in there with some new content but also just trying different things that are driving eyeballs to our site. So one of the things that I did also, I think it was like the third day I was here, was activated our Google grant.

[00:11:55] Adam: Yeah. It’s critical right there, right?

[00:11:58] Tim: Yeah.

[00:11:58] Adam: Free advertising.

[00:11:59] Tim: Ten grand like…

[00:12:00] Adam: Ten grand a month.

[00:12:01] Tim: You can’t spend it. You can’t spend it.

[00:12:02] Adam: Trust me you can.

[00:12:03] Tim: You can do that.

[00:12:03] Adam: (inaudible 00:12:04).

[00:12:04] Tim: My company runs Google grants…

[00:12:06] Adam: Okay.

[00:12:06] Tim: For a couple of nonprofits, but actually we run a forty K a month account.

[00:12:11] Adam: Wow.

[00:12:11] Tim: We spend close to forty K  a month for them.

[00:12:13] Adam: Wow.

[00:12:14] Tim: It takes some work.

[00:12:15] Adam: It does.

[00:12:15] Tim: It takes  a lot of management. Yeah.

[00:12:17] Adam: It’s hard to get to the spend.

[00:12:20] Tim: Yeah.

[00:12:21] Adam: Which is a fun problem.

[00:12:21] Tim: Which is great, yeah. So experimenting with that like what is working from keywords? What are people looking for? How can we get them to our site? So that’s just like any other thing that I’m kind of really interested in…

[00:12:36] Adam: Yeah.

[00:12:36] Tim: Playing around with and seeing how we can best utilize and leverage what we’ve already got going on.

[00:12:41] Adam: I love the idea of experimentation and just in particular where why not take a $50 here, $20 there, and boost a post, or run an ad on Instagram, or try it out on LinkedIn. I mean like there’s no reason not to try these things and see what type of results you get. Then if it works great you just do more of that, if it doesn’t you’re out twenty bucks.

[00:13:01] Tim: Yeah.

[00:13:02] Adam: Like move to the next thing.

[00:13:02] Tim: Yeah. The services now are just they’re so intuitive. Like they tell you, like Facebook will tell you ‘hey this post is performing really well, you should promote it’.

[00:13:10] Adam: Yeah.

[00:13:10] Tim: Now they’re telling you that because they want to make money obviously.

[00:13:13] Adam: Yeah.

[00:13:13] Tim: But also because it makes sense, because their algorithm is saying like ‘hey, you’re going to see some exposure’.

[00:13:19] Adam: That’s right.

[00:13:20] Tim: So to spend thirty bucks on a Facebook ad like…

[00:13:24] Adam: It’s a no brainer.

[00:13:24] Tim: Promoted posts like, yeah like try it, do it.

[00:13:27] Adam: Yeah. It can’t hurt. It gets you more engagement, it gets people more involved, they’re more interested in what you’re doing.

[00:13:31] Tim: Right.

[00:13:32] Adam: I mean the whole ship rises along with those sorts of things.

[00:13:34] Tim: Yeah.

[00:13:34] Adam: So it’s great. So you can do more testing.

[00:13:36] Tim: Yeah.

[00:13:37] Adam: That’s awesome.

[00:13:37] Tim: More testing, and so we use MailChimp for our e-mail system.

[00:13:42] Nice. You know that you can run your Adwords through MailChimp too.

[00:13:46] Tim: Yeah.

[00:13:46] Adam: Now it’s a whole new thing.

[00:13:47] Tim: Yeah.

[00:13:48] Adam: Instagram ads.

[00:13:48] Tim: I know.

[00:13:49] Adam: Is there just those two so far? I think just those two.

[00:13:51] Tim: Yeah.

[00:13:52] Adam: Are you using those?

[00:13:52] Tim: I have not yet.

[00:13:54] Adam: Okay.

[00:13:54] Tim: Started to use those.

[00:13:55] Adam: I want to hear about that later about what you do.

[00:13:57] Tim: Yeah.

[00:13:57] Adam: Yeah.

[00:13:57] Tim: I’ll let you know. But that will be, I have to carve some time out.

[00:14:01] Adam: Yeah. Now are you using the MailChimp for any of your e-mail automation stuff too?

[00:14:05] Tim: Yeah, so we’ve never done that before.

[00:14:08] Adam: Right.

[00:14:08] Tim: Then for Hands On Atlanta day I piloted an automation program.

[00:14:13] Adam: Yeah.

[00:14:13] Tim: Just to see it was like a five e-mail thing.

[00:14:15] Adam: Perfect.

[00:14:16] Tim: Just onboarding.

[00:14:16] Adam: Yes.

[00:14:17] Tim: Getting people acclimated, and so that was super successful. To give you just some quick numbers, like our our general open rate for email and we have about fifty thousand subscribers. So we’re looking at anywhere between like twelve and fifteen percent.

[00:14:31] Adam: Great.

[00:14:32] Tim: I need to get that to twenty percent as soon as possible.

[00:14:37] Adam: Yeah.

[00:14:37] Tim: But the open rates and a much smaller data set, but we’re looking at fifty percent through the five emails.

[00:14:48] Adam: Really.

[00:14:48] Tim: So email five actually was getting forty-seven percent.

[00:14:52] Adam: That’s fantastic.

[00:14:53] Tim: Open rates which I think it could have in the subject lines.

[00:14:57] Adam: Yeah.

[00:14:57] Tim: I’m not sure why.

[00:14:57] Adam: Yeah.

[00:14:57] Tim: but the fact that we were…

[00:14:59] Adam: Just hitting it over and over. Yeah.

[00:14:59] Tim: getting these more and more often. So I’m looking forward to taking those learnings on that small group and applying it to anybody who signs up to volunteer.

[00:15:09] Adam: Yeah.

[00:15:09] Tim: Just more of an onboarding, just like you would see when you sign up for that new SAS software.

[00:15:14] Adam: Yeah, they’re all really good at that.

[00:15:17] Tim: So just our listeners are aware, it’s the email automation or marketing automation. MailChimp allows you to basically set up a series of emails that automatically send to a user, and you can even get really cool and detailed with it like send this email on day one. If the user clicks a link in the email, then send this email, and if they don’t click the link, then send this e-mail. You can get pretty advanced with it.

[00:15:43] Adam: Yeah.

[00:15:43] Tim: Really spend a lot of time building on something really custom and amazing.

[00:15:47] Adam: Yeah. I believe that they actually launch that for their free service.

[00:15:52] Tim: They do. Yeah.

[00:15:52] Adam: So if you have like less than two thousand subscribers.

[00:15:55] Tim: Yeah, free.

[00:15:55] Adam: Like that’s all free.

[00:15:55] Tim: Which is amazing, and there’s a lot of very expensive systems out there that you can pay to do that.

[00:16:01] Adam: Right.

[00:16:01] Tim: Or you can just use the free service with MailChimp.

[00:16:03] Adam: Right.

[00:16:03] Tim: Which I think is fantastic. I’m a very very big MailChimp fan especially because they’re in Atlanta and do amazing work and are amazing people.

[00:16:10] Adam: Yeah, we’re big fans. I’ve been a fan of  theirs for a while.

[00:16:13] Tim: Yeah.

[00:16:13] Adam: It’s been fun to actually be able to utilize the resources and…

[00:16:16] Adam: Yeah.

[00:16:16] Tim: The tools that they provide.

[00:16:17] Adam: Well another thing about email automation is that for, like you said, it’s for volunteer onboarding, or for a new donor onboarding, or even like committee onboarding. I mean if you can think about the power sitting on a series of emails to train someone to the services that you have, or to the tools you provide, or whatever else. It saves a lot of person hours just by setting up that simple automation you can then run them through very quickly.

[00:16:44] Tim: Yeah, and you do the work once right. So you’ve got to sit down you put the plan out. What do you want to say? What do you want people to react with? What messages do you want to continually hit them on the head with?

[00:16:55] Adam: Right.

[00:16:55] Tim: Then you set it and forget it.

[00:16:58] Adam: Then you’re done.

[00:16:59] Tim: You just set and forget.

[00:16:59] Adam: It’s amazing. It’s your marketing Crock-Pot.

[00:17:02] Tim: Right.

[00:17:02] Adam: I like that.

[00:17:03] Tim: That’s it. That’s it.

[00:17:03] Adam: Except you don’t get a juicy roast at the end of that.

[00:17:05] Tim: No.

[00:17:05] Adam: Well, Tim, this was amazing man. I think we’ve covered everything I wanted to cover.

[00:17:10] Tim: Cool.

[00:17:10] Adam: I really appreciate your time.

[00:17:12] Tim: Awesome. Thanks for having me.

[00:17:13] Adam: Thanks.

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